Photo: ’twitter – What are you doing?’ by keiyac
I’ve been programming for a number of years now, and the majority of that time has involved working on solo projects with little or no interaction from other developers. While this approach can be perfectly acceptable, there were definitely moments when it left me feeling somewhat isolated. I often found myself wishing I had access to fellow programmers I could talk shop, ask for guidance, or even simply bounce ideas off of. Unfortunately for me, the few developers I did know were busy with full-time jobs and projects of their own, so I was forced to carry on in solitude. Thankfully with the advent of social media, people in search of communities are finding new and exciting ways to connect like never before. Although the Internet has long been used to communicate with like-minded individuals, social media empowers us to widen our reach to larger and more specific audiences with greater ease than the Internet communication tools of yesterday.
What do you mean by developer community?
Imagine having access to a community of developers who freely share their wisdom in the form of links and news, as well as thoughts on:
- the development process
- the tech industry
- latest projects
- anything else they possibly deem interesting
This hypothetical group could consist of developers spanning all levels of technical know-how, many of whom regularly interact with one another, spurring discussion and the free exchange of ideas. Fortunately, social media has made such communities possible for even the most remote of developers.
Why do I need a developer community?
Communities of like-minded developers who share their knowledge, projects, and thoughts can be a surprisingly useful motivational tool—especially when you have reached a point in your project where you are finding it difficult to stay engaged. By following the discussions and work of other developers, you are likely to be inspired to continue forging ahead on your own projects. Additionally, they can bring useful projects and tools to your attention long before they reach popular programming news outlets (assuming they ever do at all).
Why should I use twitter for this?
While developers have been using the Internet to interact with one another and build communities since its early days, I believe twitter offers something over more “traditional” communication tools such as discussion forums, IRC, Instant Messaging, etc. Twitter allows you to choose whose updates you follow, so you can cater your experience to only include content from users whose tweets you find personally engaging. In essence, you possess the power to craft your own community on a person by person basis, choosing members directly relevant to your interests.
How do I find interesting developers to follow on twitter?
A good place to start is this list of developers I’ve personally curated over the past several years; have a look at the list and follow anyone whose tweets you find interesting. And of course, there’s also me (but no pressure ;)
Twitter is generally a fairly casual place, so feel free to follow or unfollow as many developers as you like without worrying about formalities like introductions or farewells. Some people will tweet frequently, and others barely at all, so keep that in mind as you consider who to follow. If you decide someone tweets too frequently for your tastes or tweets content that you find uninteresting, you can simply unfollow them.
Some of the people you follow may choose to follow you back, but don’t get upset if they don’t. Similarly to how everyone’s tweets won’t be personally interesting to you, not everyone will be interested in what you have to say. By continuing to tweet with regularity and developing a “voice” or personality on twitter (along with engaging the people you follow), like-minded followers will eventually find you.
As with many things, you will likely find that you get out of twitter what you put into it. Twitter users can be finicky about who they choose to follow, so you may need to spend time establish a timeline of interesting tweets before others are enticed to follow you.
The good news is, twitter is used in many different ways by many different people. Because of this, there is generally no “wrong way” to go about using it as long as you are friendly and respectful of people’s boundaries. Your style of tweeting may not fit some people’s needs, and vice versa, so don’t get upset if you struggle at first to get people to engage you.
Keep tweeting and remain on the lookout for interesting people to follow. With a little time and experimenting, eventually you will find your community, and meanwhile, you will discover all sorts of interesting tweets to inspire your growth as a developer.